>> Tuesday, September 22, 2015
Once again, I'm involved in a NYC Midnight fiction challenge, this time
flash fiction, so the works are all 1000 words or less. The over the top humor of my first entry didn't seem to work well for me (didn't place) but then they handed me comedy for my second prompt, set at a school detention and involving a pretzel. So I
wrote, "Grandma's Cooking" using one of my favorite side characters from Saving Tessa. So, if you like her (and you will) you know where to find more of her.
Synopsis: For most people, grandma's cooking is the epitome of wholesome goodness. And then there was Dotty Miller.
|Picture was totally stolen from FB so I don't know who to credit|
"Detention? This is a culinary school!" Chef Sharif crushed the file in his hands."Well, yes, but we had to do something. She's already destroyed the kitchens on three floors." The school director looked distinctly sheepish."Destroyed? In my culinary school? Throw her out!""All the damage was paid for by a Mr. Chroz. And he bought us a show kitchen and wrangled a deal for a cooking show for our top students.""Oh." The illustrious Chef Ramon Sharif paused, then smoothed the crumpled file in his hands. "Cable?""Network. Primetime.""Still, detention seems ludicrous and, even if it's not, why should I be involved? I started this school. I'm the great Chef Sharif! I just taught at Le Cordon Bleu." He sighed. "I'm not even over my jet lag.""Well, Dotty, er, Ms. Miller, well, it's very hard to stay mad at her. We have tried to be firm, but it hasn't taken well and no one quite has the heart for it. Given this difficulty, we were confident you could do it."Chef Sharif preened. He prided himself on his kitchen discipline. "As you will. Best bring me a glass of cognac and I shall deal with Ms. Miller."With that, he strode into Practice Kitchen #5. The director sighed. "I'll bring the bottle."Chef Sharif was reading Ms. Miller's file as he came in. "Ms. Miller," he said without looking up. "You are 62 years old? Doesn't it seem late in the game . . . ?" When he looked up, he just stopped talking."But I must!" The apparition before him, tiny and willowy, clasped her hands soulfully, and rattled with dozens of chains and bangles and earrings. Her sundress and some sort of gauzy jacket were a brilliant mix of pinks and oranges, while her hair, floating about her head despite the white hat, was somehow orange with pink highlights. Her impossibly large cerulean eyes brimmed with unshed tears in a face that looked half its age. "I must cook or die! And please call me Dotty."Sharif tore his eyes away from her and back to the file, and then gasped at her amazing list of catastrophes, given she'd only been there three days. "You blew a hole through the west wing wall?""A pressure cooker seemed a perfectly reasonable way to cook spaghetti sauce," Dotty insisted, tears gone like magic. "Though I might have had the heat up a trifle high.""And a fire destroyed Kitchen 9?""I just assumed when they said, 'Sauté' it was supposed to be flambé. Perhaps I should have used tablespoons of oil, not cups," she mused. "Or something other than ice water to put it out.""And this, the oven in Kitchen 3 was been completely contaminated?""Who knew soufflés exploded at high temperatures?" she explained"They let you make a soufflé on your second day?"Dotty placed a tiny hand (emblazoned with a tiger on its back) on his sleeve. "Well, no, but it looked so interesting, I wanted to try it. I might not have had the right ingredients for a chocolate soufflé.""What? Marshallows!?" Sharif closed the file with a snap. "You cannot," Sharif said in his sternest voice, "just strike out on your own. Cooking requires learning the basics. How could you reach an advanced age without . . . ?"Dotty's face was a study in crestfallen misery. "But I have to learn. When my granddaughter married my lover's son, my lover was left all alone. I must make something memorable for his birthday in three weeks.""I don't think memorable is the problem. . . Wait, your lover?" he said."Hugo Chroz.""Of Chroz Industries? That Hugo Chroz?" His voice squeaked."Yes.""The one who paid for the damages?""Yes." In a mood swing that confounded Sharif, Dotty's eyes blazed. "He said I couldn't be trusted in a kitchen. He barred me from cooking unless I graduated from cooking school. You see why I must succeed!"Her anger evaporated into tears that fell without restraint yet didn't impact her beauty in any way. "Do you think he can thwart me and get away with it? Are you on his side, too?"Well, he was, actually, but there was no way he'd say so with her crying like that. Plus, with Chroz so generous, Sharif couldn't afford to infuriate her either."Well, you're here in detention, er, special class, to learn. What have you worked on today?""Pretzels!" She was all smiles again, then gestured at an array of something . . .that didn't look like pretzels.He held up a blackened ball of dough and broke it open to find it gooey on the inside. "Why is it in this shape?""Well, wouldn't it be more interesting in different knots? That's a diamond knot!""And this?" He held a lumpy (Sheepshank) pretzel but couldn't bring himself to taste it."Pretzels are so bland. I added habaneros and pineapple!"Sharif dropped it and rubbed his stinging fingertips on his shirt. He picked up an orange (Savoy) pretzel. "And this?""Cheese!" she exulted and he bit. "And, of course, broccoli."Manfully, Sharif swallowed. "When did you say your lover's birthday was?"* * * * * * *As the dessert plates were removed, Hugo Chroz sat back with a satisfied smile. Their guests looked equally sated, and praise for the food was a frequent topic. "Dotty, my love," he said, "Thank you. Dinner was amazing.""Yes.""But how did you get Chef Sharif to cater? He won't do private events. He's turned down the President.""I can be persuasive," she said sweetly."I can vouch for that. But you didn't have any luck when you tried to get him to cater the kids' wedding, you know. You were so vexed.""Oh yes, but you know me, darling." She kissed him on the cheek and whispered, "Do you think he can thwart me and get away with it?"